President Donald Trump met on Wednesday with victims of opioid addiction and members of his committee who will address the growing crisis.
“Opioid abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States,” Trump said. “This is a total epidemic. And I think it’s almost untalked-about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing.”
The president was joined at the White House meeting by Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Chris Christie, who is leading the commission. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly also attended.
Trump referred to the border, vowing to do more to stop opioid drugs from entering the country.
“Drug cartels have spread their deadly industry across our nation, and the availability of cheap narcotics, some of it comes in cheaper than candy and has devastated our communities,” Trump said.
One recovering addict, Vanessa Vitolo, explained how she became injured and got hooked on painkillers like Percocet and oxycodone. It was not long before she moved on to heroin because it was cheaper.
Vitolo said she lost everything, was homeless, and in and out of jail before she went to a treatment facility.
“You have no feelings, and you’re a shell, and it takes over your whole life,” she explained.
Thanks to her treatment, she said, she recovered from addiction and now has a job and an apartment.
“There is hope and there is a tomorrow, and there is a day after that. You just have to fight for it,” Vitolo said.
AJ Solomon, the Founder of Victory Bay Recovery Center, talked about how he got hooked on painkillers like OxyContin before getting addicted to heroin. He said his battle with addiction caused him to consider suicide.
“I planned to shoot myself,” he said. “I didn’t have a gun.”
Pam Garozzo, a drug awareness advocate, lost her son to drug addiction and blamed his use of marijuana as a gateway drug to harder drugs like heroin and crystal meth. Despite his efforts to get clean, he overdosed on meth as a senior in high school.
“Nothing in parenting prepares you to deal with the fact that Mike and I will outlive our son,” Garozzo said. “That his sisters who he idolized and who were so close to him, won’t see him anymore. That there will be empty seats at the Thanksgiving table.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted during the meeting that both he and the president were pro-life.
“We’re pro-life for the whole life, not just for the nine months in the womb,” he said. “Every life is an individual gift from God and is precious. And no life is irredeemable.”